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Re-ranking the 2007 recruiting class

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July’s live recruiting period, the last of its kind, just finished up, meaning that the Class of 2019 have fully had a chance to prove themselves to the recruiters and the recruitniks around the country.

Scholarships were earned and rankings were justified over the course of those three weekends, but scholarship offers and rankings don’t always tell us who the best players in a given class will end up being.

Ask Steph Curry.

Over the course of the coming weeks, we will be re-ranking eight recruiting classes, from 2007-2014, based on what they have done throughout their post-high school career. 

Here are the 25 best players from the Class of 2007, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

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1. JAMES HARDEN (11)

The Beard has gone from being an incredibly productive two-year player at Arizona State to the Sixth Man of the Year as a third-year pro to the MVP of the NBA this past season. In six seasons since leaving Oklahoma City, Harden has yet to average under 25.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.7 boards. Last season, he averaged 30.4 points. The year before that, he averaged 11.2 assists. And if it wasn’t for Chris Paul’s hamstring injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals — or Houston missing 27 straight threes in Game 7 — his Houston Rocket team would have been the team to dethrone Golden State.

Harden is arguably the best player in the NBA not named LeBron or Durant. Not only that, he has helped reinvent the way basketball is played in the pace-and-space era.

2. DERRICK ROSE (3)

As hard as this may be to believe, Derrick Rose does not turn 30 years old for another two months. It’s easy to forget that, at the time of his first knee injury all the way back in the 2011-12 season, he was just 23 years old, coming off of a year where he was the youngest player in NBA history to win the MVP award. The Chicago-native had led the Bulls to the No. 1 seed in the East, falling in five games to the first iteration of LeBron’s Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Rose could have been one of the best to ever play the game had his body held up. He will always be one of basketball’s great ‘what-ifs?’

3. KEVIN LOVE (6)

It’s easy to forget that, before Love arrived in Cleveland, before he had to cede much of his production to play alongside LeBron and Kyrie Irving, that Love was a 25-year old three-time all-star that was coming off a season where he was named second-team all-NBA when he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 boards and 4.4 assists. The third option on the LeBron superteams (Love and Chris Bosh) has been the one to make the biggest sacrifice, but it’s inarguable that part of the reason Cleveland could be called a superteam the last four seasons was his presence on the roster. Love has turned into something of a laughing-stock in recent seasons, but I’d guess it was worth it for that 2016 title and three other trips to the NBA Finals.

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4. BLAKE GRIFFIN (23)

Griffin passed up the chance to be a top ten pick in the 2008 NBA Draft to return to school for his sophomore season, where he won the National Player of the Year award and was the first pick the following season. He missed his first year in the NBA, but since then has been one of the best power forwards in the game, adapting the way he plays to fit the modern NBA. He averaged 12.1 boards as a rookie and has won an NBA Dunk Contest, and this past season h dished out a career-high 5.8 assists per game while shooting 34.5 percent from three on more than five attempts per game.

5. ERIC GORDON (2)

Gordon has never made an all-star game, has only played more than 70 games twice in ten years and, at this point in his career, is a part-time starter for the Houston Rockets, but he’s made a lucrative career out of being a big-time scorer that can shoot the rock. Over the course of ten seasons, he’s averaged 16.7 points and shot 37.6 percent from three.

6. DEANDRE JORDON (8)

The last of a dying breed, Jordan’s career got off to a slow start — he was a second round pick that came off the bench for two seasons — but he’s since turned into a workhorse and one of the best defensive centers in the league. He’s twice led the NBA in rebounding, he’s been a first-team all-defensive player twice, first team All-NBA once and he made a killing out of being the finisher in Chris Paul pick-and-rolls. He’s also made just a single three-pointer in ten seasons. Will we ever see another DeAndre Jordan?

(Harry How/Getty Images)

7. JEFF TEAGUE (57)

Since breaking into Atlanta’s starting lineup during the 2011-12 season, Teague has grown into being one of the more consistent point guards in the league. He’s only made one all-star team, but in the last six seasons, he’s never averaged less than 14.2 points and 5.9 assists.

8. CHANDLER PARSONS (19)

A series of injuries over the course of the last two seasons have turned Parsons into one of the worst contracts in the NBA. He’s owed nearly $50 million by Memphis over the next two seasons, which makes it easy to forget that, prior to signing that contract, Parsons had averaged 15.4 points, 5.2 boards and 3.2 assists while shooting 38.5 percent from three over the course of four seasons.

9. KENNETH FARIED (UR)

Age and injuries have taken their toll on Faried, as has his inability to shoot in a league that you need to be able to shoot, but there was a five-year stretch where the Morehead State product averaged double-figures and better than eight rebounds a night. He was a starter and a useful piece on a playoff team. Not bad for a player who only had one offer coming out of Newark.

10. MICHAEL BEASLEY (1)

Beasley has had such a fascinating career. After putting up gargantuan numbers in one season at Kansas State, many expected him to develop into a star in the NBA. That didn’t happen, although he did average 19.2 points during his second season in the league. That said, he is now in year 11 as an NBA player, coming off a season where he played 74 games and averaged 13.2 points for the Knicks and heading out to LA to team up with LeBron. Throw in career earnings that will top $40 million by the end of this season, and all-in-all, things could have been much worse for Super Cool Beas.

(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

11. JAMES JOHNSON (62)

Along with being the one guy in the NBA that you should never, ever get in a fight with, Johnson has managed to carve out a ten-year career for himself. He bounced around the NBA for the first five years of his career before finding a role in Toronto in 2014. He’s had the two-best seasons of his career in the last two years in Miami, including this past season, where he averaged 10.8 points, 4.9 boards and 3.8 assists.

12. EVAN TURNER (49)

Turner had a three-year career at Ohio State that culminated in sharing Player of the Year honors with John Wall as a junior, which jettisoned him to the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He never quite lived up to the hype — he was averaged 17.4 points, 6.0 boards and 3.7 assists when he was traded from a tanking Philly team to come off the bench for the Pacers in 2014 — but has posted 10.2 points, 4.8 boards and 3.5 assists in an eight-year (and counting) career that will earn him at least $98 million.

13. PATRICK PATTERSON (17)

Patterson has only averaged double-figures once in his eight-year career, but he’s developed into a pretty decent veteran big man, and still a fairly-useful piece. He’s never been much more than a borderline starter in the NBA, but he’s 6-foot-9 and he can still rebound and made threes.

14. O.J. MAYO (4)

The hype that Mayo had coming out of high school was on another level, and his “recruitment” to USC is the stuff of legends. He entered the NBA in 2008 with Memphis, averaging 18.5 points as a rookie, but it’s been all downhill from there. He’s never mae an all-star team, he’s never bettered his rookie season numbers and he’s been out of the NBA since 2016 following a positive drug test.

15. JERRYD BAYLESS (13)

After one season at Arizona where he 19.7 points, Bayless has built himself a 10-year NBA career out of being an offensive sparkplug off the bench. Currently, he’s a part-time starter and one of the first guards off the bench for the 76ers.

16. J.J. HICKSON (10)

Hickson was actually a pretty productive player in the league for a few years, topping out during the 2012-13 season, when he averaged 12.7 points and 10.4 boards for Portland. It’s been all downhill since then, as he was out of the NBA by 2016, spent two years in China and, just this summer, was arrested for attempted armed robbery in Georgia.

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

17. E’TWUAN MOORE (35)

It took awhile for Moore to get where he is, but after spending the first five years of his career bouncing around the league, he’s found a home in New Orleans. This past season, he started 80 games for the Pelicans, averaging 12.5 points and 2.3 assists while shooting 42.3 percent from three.

18. JUSTIN HOLIDAY (83)

One of three Holiday brothers currently in the NBA, Justin had just nine games in one season of NBA player under his belt in 2014 when, at 25 years old, he signed with the Warriors. But in the last four years, he’s carved out a career for himself, highlighted by this past year, where he started 72 games for the Bulls while averaging 12.2 points.

19. NICK CALATHES (14)

Calathes has played just two seasons in the NBA, but he’s a dual-citizen of Greece and has had a decorated, successful and profitable career playing for the Greek club Panathinaikos.

20. ANTHONY RANDOLPH (12)

Like Calathes, Randolph has turned what could be viewed as an NBA failure into a tremendous amount of success overseas. He played in the league for five years, but has been doing nothing but winning trophies over in Europe. He won Eurobasket playing alongside Luke Doncic and Goran Dragic with the Slovenian national team, and cut down the nets with Real Madrid in the Euroleague this past spring.

21. KYLE SINGLER (5)

Singler was an all-american and a national champion with the Duke Blue Devils before getting drafted by the Pistons in the second round in 2011. He lasted three years with Detroit as a starter before heading to Oklahoma City, where he is still on the roster, playing minimal minutes.

22. MIKE SCOTT (115)

Like Singler, Scott didn’t play an NBA game until the 2012-13 season, but he carved out a career for himself as a bench player for the Atlanta Hawks for five seasons. Last year, he played 76 games and averaged 8.8 points off the bench for the Wizards.

23. KOSTA KOUFOS (16)

Believe it or not, Koufos is still in the NBA. The former one-and-done center from Ohio State has played for five teams in his ten-year career, but he’s heading into his fourth season in Sacramento, where he’s averaged 73 games the last three years, starting 89 of them.

24. JON LEUER (82)

The former all-american at Wisconsin has managed to put together a seven-year career in the NBA. He played just eight games last season, but in 2016-17, he averaged a career-high 10.2 points for the Detroit Pistons.

25. NOLAN SMITH (39)

Smith shared National Player of the year awards with Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker in 2011, a year after he won a national title with Duke, and went on to get drafted in the first round by the Portland Trailblazers before his career was sent off the rails by a torn ACL.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

FIVE NOTABLES THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE TOP 25

BILL WALKER (7)

Walker was a high school teammate of O.J. Mayo who ended up enrolling at Kansas State in middle of the 2006-07 season after it was determined that he had already used up his high school eligibility. He would tear an ACL for the second time that season before averaging 16.8 points as a sophomore alongside Michael Beasley. He played parts of five seasons in the NBA, and is currently going by the name Henry Walker while playing in the Phillipines.

DONTE GREENE (9)

Greene played just one season at Syracuse before heading to the NBA, where he was a late first round pick. He lasted four years in the league and has since bounced around the world, playing everywhere from Saudi Arabia to China to Lebanon to the Dominican Republic.

JONNY FLYNN (22)

Best-known as “the guy taken before Stephen Curry”, the former No. 6 pick in the NBA draft played just three seasons in the NBA before heading overseas. Best I can tell, he’s been out of basketball since 2014.

NORRIS COLE (UR)

Cole was a star at Cleveland State before getting picked in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. He played for three years with LeBron and Dwyane Wade in Miami, a valuable role player that earned himself a pair of rings. His best seasons came in 2015-16, when he averaged 10.6 points and 3.7 assists with the Pelicans.

JACOB PULLEN (UR)

One of my favorite players in the college rankings since I started doing this, so I’m throwing his name in here. He was on a two-way contract with the 76ers last year.

Baylor’s Jake Lindsey out for season after hip surgery

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Jake Lindsey’s senior season is going to be delayed a year.

The Baylor guard will miss the upcoming season after undergoing hip surgery, he announced Sunday.

“I will be redshirting this season as I recover from hip surgery,” Lindsey wrote on Twitter. “I can’t wait to help the team this year in a different role as I recover. I want to say thank you to everyone who has been helping me in this time, whether you know it or not.”

The 6-foot-5 guard has averaged more than 20 minutes per game the last two seasons as a 3-point shooting specialist and distributor. He averaged just 4.5 points per game last season, but dished out 3.4 assists while shooting 34.1 percent from distance (down from 40.4 percent as a sophomore). He will have one season of eligibility remaining in 2019-20 after sitting out this season.

Lindsey, whose father Dennis is the general manager of the Utah Jazz, battled the hip injury throughout much of last season, but did not miss any games as a result. His loss will be acute for the Bears, who lost four seniors off last year’s No. 1 seed NIT team including point guard Manu Lecomte.

Five Takeaways from Duke’s Canada Exhibitions

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Just like Kentucky did two weeks ago, the Duke Blue Devils spent last week traveling abroad to play in exhibition games that were televised.

Kentucky went south, heading to the Bahamas.

Duke made the trip up north so that Canadian R.J. Barrett would have a chance to play in front of his home crowd.

And while it was a little bit easier to see what Kentucky will have a chance to be this season — we’ll get into why that is later — we did get our first chance to see what Duke could look like.

Here are the four things that we learned:

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R.J. BARRETT IS THE TRUTH, BUT ZION WILLIAMSON SHOULD LIVE UP TO THE HYPE

At this point, everyone should know more or less what R.J. Barrett is.

He was the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2018 despite the fact that he reclassified last summer. (He turned 18 this summer, meaning that he is enrolling in college in what would be considered the normal year.) There is a long way to go still, but he is thought to be head and shoulders above the rest of the field when it comes to the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Last summer, he put 38 points, 13 boards and six assists on the USA team at the U-19 World Cup, which became first time since 2011 that USA Basketball was not the reigning champion at any age group in international competition.

Put another way, seeing Barrett steamroll a bunch of Canadian college basketball players should not be surprising if you know what he did against a team that included the likes of Carsen Edwards, Kevin Huerter, P.J. Washington and Romeo Langford, not to mention Barrett’s current Duke teammate, Cam Reddish. In three games, he averaged 30.7 points, 8.0 boards and 5.0 assists.

What was more eye-opening was the way that Zion Williamson played.

Williamson is college basketball’s first superstar of the internet age. His other-worldly athleticism has turned him into a social media machine. He has 1.7 million followers on Instagram. There are YouTube channels that have sprung to life simply because they were able to post his high school dunk. When he was a junior in high school, Drake wore his jersey. Every teenage basketball fan knows who he is.

The question about Williamson has long been whether or not he is more than just an athlete. He never left his local South Carolina high school, which is why those viral videos of him dunking often looked like he was playing against, well, me. He played on the Adidas circuit in high school, which is good but is not at the same level as the EYBL. I’m not sure there is a person on the planet that can match his explosiveness and quickness while checking in at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, as Duke lists him, but the question about his potential as a pro has always been what will happen when he is not longer on another planet athletically.

And at the risk of overreacting to three exhibition games against overmatched competition, I am much more bullish on him as a prospect today than I was a week ago.

There are three reasons for that:

  1. Williamson has a higher basketball IQ and is a better passer than I realized. It’s the little moments that give it away: finding a shooter after an offensive rebound, seeing a backdoor cut even if the pass he threw was not good enough to get the assist, the outlet passes he would throw to streaking guards before he even landed after grabbing a defensive rebound. He reads the game.
  2. He’s underrated as a ball-handler. He’s also hardly a finished product there, but he has good enough handle that he can be a sensation as a grab-and-go big in transition and will be able to beat bigger (well, slower, he’s pretty big) defenders off the bounce. That’s key because his shooting still needs work.
  3. He just plays so damn hard. When someone his size with his leaping ability decides that they want to go and get a rebound, how are you going to stop him? And while things like handle or shooting or defensive positioning can be taught, ‘motor’ cannot.

Williamson probably could stand to lose 20 or 25 pounds*, which will likely also help with him improving on his conditioning; he seemed to tire for stretches in these exhibitions, which is understandable considering the load he and Barrett carried and the fact that, you know, he is 285 pounds. And that jumper needs some consistency.

But those are fairly easy problems to fix, all things considered.

Which is why I think Williamson is going to come much closer to living up to the hype than I did before this trip.

*(The “Zion is fine at 285” crowd annoys me. Yes, he’ll be just fine playing at 285 pounds or whatever he is. But if he’s able to do all of this while carrying baby weight around, imagine what he’ll do once he streamlines his body.)

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DUKE’S DEPTH IS GOING TO BE AN ISSUE

Duke had a bunch of injuries on this trip.

I know.

Cam Reddish didn’t play. Tre Jones didn’t play. Alex O’Connell lasted all of three minutes in the first game before fracturing a bone in his face. That’s three of Duke’s top six players heading into next season.

The problem?

Without those three, Duke was forced to start the likes of Jack White, Antonio Vrankovic and Jordan Goldwire in lineups that included both Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden. I expect White will play a larger role this season because, if nothing else, he’s going to be one of the best shooters on the roster and can play a forward spot. Goldwire is fine as a point guard off the bench, I guess, and Vrankovic is big enough and serviceable enough to play emergency minutes.

Those guys are fine for the end of the bench, but the problem that will arise is that “the end of Duke’s bench” looks like it is going to start with the eighth man.

And that’s assuming that Marques Bolden becomes a trusted part of Coach K’s rotation. In the three exhibitions in Canada, Bolden played a total of just 39 minutes, missing all three of his shot attempts without taking a single free throw while grabbing all of nine rebounds.

My guess?

Duke plays the majority of this season with a six-man rotation, using O’Connell off the bench to spell whoever needs a rest and allowing Williamson to play the five when Javin DeLaurier needs a blow.

Depth is something that I think is overrated in college basketball given how many TV timeouts there are during a game. Villanova has won two of the last three national titles despite using rotations that end at seven guys. Syracuse routinely makes runs in March with teams that have just five or six guys that see minutes. It’s great to have 13 players on scholarship that can contribute, but only five of them can see the floor at a time. When your best players are going to get 30-35 minutes a night, having too many guys that deserve to play can lead to discontentment.

So I’m not sure this is going to cripple Duke’s season.

But in a sport where titles are won in one-game knockout tournaments, a poorly-timed sprained ankle or some simple foul trouble can be a killer.

Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP

THIS TEAM IS GOING TO BE SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH

If there is one thing that we can learn from the way that Duke played in Canada, it’s that this team is likely going to play fast, fast, fast.

I’m not sure there will be any player in the college basketball this year that can grab-and-go the way that Barrett and Williamson can, and that’s before you even factor in that Reddish — a silky 6-foot-8 wing — will be able to do the same thing, and that Tre Jones will actually be the point guard on this roster.

Imagine being an opposing point guard and seeing Barrett or Williamson come at you with a full head of steam in transition. That’s nightmare fuel.

This group is also switchable defensively, and I’ve been told that they have already been tinkering with lineups that allow Williamson to play the five, a la the ‘Death Lineup’ that the Golden State Warriors roll out with Draymond Green playing center.

There is a lot to like about this group, but that leads me to my single-biggest concern about this team …

… DUKE IS GOING TO HAVE TO FIND SHOOTING SOMEWHERE

Part of the reason I think Duke is going to be a transition-heavy team is that they have the players to thrive in that kind of a system.

But I also think that it will partly be by necessity, as Duke has a roster that is loaded with perimeter talent without having all that much perimeter shooting.

Put another way, Villanova made small-ball work for them last season because every single player in their top six was a lethal three-point shooter. Golden State makes it work because they have three of the greatest shooters in the history of the sport on the roster.

Barrett? The biggest knock on him as a prospect is that he is an inconsistent shooter, and that was backed up by a 6-for-21 (28%) performance in Canada. The same thing can be said about Williamson, who shot 3-for-9 (33%) from three on the trip, and one of his three makes was a ball that bricked off the back of the rim, hit the backboard and happened to drop in. Reddish and Jones are both guys that can make threes, but they are probably better described as scorers more than shooters.

Throw in someone like a DeLaurier or a Bolden, and suddenly the paint gets awfully clogged.

I currently have Duke sitting at No. 4 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 — behind Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky — because of those question marks from beyond the arc.

This trip did nothing to alleviate those concerns.

VIDEO: Duke’s Zion Williamson takes flight in final exhibition win

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Duke played this trip short-handed and against competition that wasn’t exactly overwhelming, but the Blue Devils still looked pretty impressive steam-rolling the teams they did play.

And while I say “the Blue Devils”, I really mean Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Barrett is widely considered the better prospect, but Williamson was the one that put on a show all weekend, and today’s game against McGill was no different.

Providence freshman David Duke Jr. takes flight in Italy

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Having reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last five seasons, the Providence basketball program has begun its preparations for a run at a sixth straight appearance in Italy.

Ed Cooley’s team, which beat the Varese All-Stars by a final score of 113-46 on Thursday, was back in action Saturday with the Adriatic Sea Dragons serving as the opposition. And during one sequence freshman guard David Duke Jr., part of a highly-anticipated recruiting class, showed exactly why so many have been high on the Providence native since he made his commitment to stay home.

Duke stole a pass in the backcourt and then took off towards the basket, with a backpedaling defender serving as “resistance.” The end result was a lesson in what can happen when you wind up underneath the basket, and the man with the ball is a high-level finisher.

Much is expected from Providence’s four-member freshman class, but there’s plenty to expect from the returnees as well. Alpha Diallo is one of the Big East’s best wing talents, and contributors such as Kalif Young, Nate Watson and Makai Ashton-Langford appear poised to take a step forward in 2018-19.

Add in the return of Emmitt Holt, whose minutes are being limited in Italy after an abdominal issue sidelined him for all of last season, and Providence has the tools needed to not only make another NCAA tournament appearance but contend in the Big East as well.

R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson combine for 59 in Duke win

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Two days removed from a win over Ryerson in the first of three exhibition games the team will play in Canada, Duke took on the University of Toronto Friday afternoon in Mississauga, Ontario. And as was the case Wednesday, prized freshmen R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson led the way in the Blue Devils’ 96-60 victory.

Barrett, who scored 34 points against McGill, tallied 35 on Friday while Williamson added another 24. Duke finished the game with three double-digit scorers as Joey Baker, who’s also a freshman, added 11 off the bench.

Duke hasn’t been able to use its full roster in Canada, as freshmen Cam Reddish and Tre Jones are both being held out due to health concerns. Reddish is nursing a groin strain, while Jones is recovering from a hip injury suffered before he arrived at Duke. The Blue Devils were down another rotation player Friday, as guard Alex O’Connell suffered a broken orbital bone during Wednesday’s game.

While those absences have given Barrett and Williamson even more opportunities to shine with the basketball in their hands, it also opens the door for other players to make a positive impression on Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the coaching staff. On Friday it was Baker who took advantage, with Antonio Vrankovic (eight points, eight rebounds) and Jack White (six points, five assists) being two other players who performed well off the bench.

Duke wraps up its trip with a game against McGill Sunday afternoon in Montreal.

Video credit: FrankieVision